Projects can quickly turn into nightmares. Here is a story told to us by an acquaintance we’ll call Mike, who runs an excavating company.

The project was a massive excavation for a public utility that was upgrading a major facility to accommodate new housing. The site plan showed a complex web of trenches where all of the new conduits and piping would be buried. In our winning bid, we planned for a crew of eighteen laborers and six earthmovers with operators. The contract had a nice on-time bonus clause that would boost our profit significantly, so we were highly motivated to stay on task.

The engineers had carefully staged the project plan. We would need to dig individual trenches at specific points ...

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